Questions still surround state Sen. Clementa Pinckney's residency

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Questions still surround state Sen. Clementa Pinckney's residency

By CASEY CONLEY
cconley@ilsandpacket.com
Published Wednesday, November 14, 2012   |  516 Words  |  

For the second day in a row, longtime state Sen. Clementa Pinckney of Ridgeland refused to respond to questionsabout his residency.

Pinckney, a Democrat, defeated Republican Leilani Bessinger of Beaufort Nov. 6 for the District 45 seat. Bessinger, who lost by nearly 13,000 votes, is challenging that victory, saying she learned Nov. 9 that Pinckney does not live at the Sunset Avenue address he listed on his voter registration card. She claims he doesn't live in the district at all.

State law requires that candidates for state Senate or House of Representatives be legal residents of the district they want to represent when they file for office.

Her challenge filed with the S.C. Election Commission also claims Jasper County Democratic Party officials never verified Pinckney's address or investigated discrepancies related to his residence prior to the election.

She wants the S.C. Election Commission to void the result and call a special election. The five-person panel will hold a hearing on the protest by Dec. 14.

Pinckney did not return phone calls or text messages left Tuesday and Wednesday by The Island Packet and the Beaufort Gazette seeking comment on the issue. Bessinger also could not be reached for comment.

While Pinckney has not responded to the newspapers' request for comment, he addressed it with the Jasper County Sun recently.

That newspaper quoted Pinckney as saying he hasn't lived at the Sunset Avenue home for three years. He said he forgot to change his address to his new one on Cross Creek Circle, which is within District 45.

Calling the issue an oversight, Pinckney told the newspaper he would update his voter registration when he gets a new drivers license in 2016.

Pinckney insisted he still lives in District 45 though his wife and children live nearly 100 miles away in Aiken.

District 45 includes parts of Allendale, Beaufort, Charleston, Hampton, Jasper and Colleton counties. Aiken is in Aiken County.

Pinckney, who received more than 66 percent of the vote in last week's election, has served three four-year terms in the state Senate. Prior to that, he served two terms in the S.C. House. He lists a post office box in Ridgeland as his home address and a different post office box address in campaign filings with the S.C. Ethics Commission.

Election Commission spokesman Chris Whitmire said Tuesday the commission can either deny Bessinger's protest and affirm the election results or grant the protest and call for a new election.

The panel's decision can be appealed to the S.C. Senate.

Follow reporter Casey Conley at twitter.com/EyeOnBeaufortCo.

Related content:

Bessinger challenges Pinckney's election win, Nov. 13, 2012

Pinckney leading challenger Bessinger, Nov. 6, 2012

Jasper County Sun: Pinckney answers address questions